The Minnesota Twins pitching staff is set up for a potentially crushing season with the new format for the schedule. Those expectations are fair. In fact, if you drill into the top sites listed in sportsbook reviews, the Twins are considered one of the favorites in Major League Baseball for 2020, as well as the American League Central Division.
Between both the rotation and the arms in the bullpen, the staff is more complete than it has been in nearly a decade for Minnesota. Another argument could be made that the starting pitching staff is as complete as it has been in nearly 15 years since Johan Santana anchored the rotation with guys like Francisco Liriano and Brad Radke following behind.
Jose Berrios is the undisputed No. 1 in the Twins rotation this year, as he has been since emerging as a top prospect for the Twins. Berrios has a career 4.21 ERA but dropped it to 3.68 for the 2019 season.
The 2012 first-round pick had a discernible dominance at the start of last season compared to the final few months. He finished July with a 2.80 ERA in 2019 but saw it increase to the 3.68 through both August and September. The shortened season could allow Berrios roughly 10 to 13 starts to get his most dominant pitching in, as he did last season and in seasons prior. Without the strain of getting close to 200 innings in a season, Berrios can focus on a much smaller sample size to be in mid-season form by the time the playoffs come around.
Filling the middle of Minnesota’s rotation in the No. 2 spot is Jake Odorizzi and No. 3 with newly-acquired Kenta Maeda. The third slot is key as Minnesota didn’t have as a reliable a figure as Maeda in that spot in 2019, as the rotation trailed off in effectiveness beyond Odorizzi and Berrios.
In the fourth and fifth spots of the rotation, Minnesota has some options. Veterans like Homer Bailey and Rich Hill are ready to step into the fourth spot with their wealth of experience to provide stable pitching as well as valuable leadership to many of the other pitchers in the equation. Hill, who wouldn’t have been able to start for the Twins in March of 2020 has the benefit of longer recovery time from elbow surgery.
Those younger pitchers, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe are all likely candidates to fill the fifth rotation position. Their development through the late stages of the 2019 season where they all appeared in big moments for the Twins is key to each of them contributing more to the major league club again in 2020.
The potential promise doesn’t end at just the starting rotation, though. As distracting as the starters are, along with the return of electric centerfielder Byron Buxton, the Twins significantly upgraded the bullpen in the offseason by adding more experience from both inside and out of the organization.
Taylor Rogers returns as one of the better closers in MLB. He is supported by returning late-inning pitchers such as Trevor May, Tyler Duffey and Sergio Romo. Some new faces to the club like Matt Wisler and Tyler Clippard add reliable arms for other areas of work. This list goes on with the addition of some younger pitchers, whichever ones don’t end up with a starting spot. Dobnak, Smeltzer, Thorpe and Fernando Romero all provide some nuance and raw talent that pitching coach Wes Johnson can mold into someone that fits the Twins’ short-term needs this season.